Part of the fun of the Gift-a-Long is finding new patterns and getting to know new designers, so today, you guys will have a chance to learn more about Karen Butler and her designs--like this lovely Cascadia Shawl!
I asked Karen a few questions about her design process, future plans and the Gift-a-Long, and here's what she had to say!
Why did you decide to start designing knitwear and publishing patterns?
My decision to start publishing knitting patterns was made last summer, though my apprenticeship has taken me about 45 years! I started knitting when I was 4. Mum still has 2 of my first 4 pieces: pan holders knitted on large wooden needles in bright orange trimmings from a nylon bedspread factory. Apparently I said that any large loops were for hanging them up. By the age of 12 I was knitting from patterns, which were a lot less detailed then they are now. I can remember working out spacing of increases across a row and learning to adjust a lace pattern when shaping garments. It wasn't too long before I was modifying patterns. I've knitted on and off throughout my adult life, the offs being mainly because of difficulty in obtaining yarn that I liked to knit with. But from the start of 2010, I have knitted at every opportunity. Late the same year, I met Ann Kingstone for the second time at Fibreflurry, and from early 2011 I started technical editing her knitting patterns. I haven't looked back, and now have regular tech editing work from a number of designers including Ann Kingstone and Anniken Allis.
It wasn't my intention to start designing, but somehow things fell into place. I was asked by a friend to write the Mini Mitten and Mini Sock patterns for some kits, but I didn't feel ready to progress beyond those at the time.
The range of my technical knowledge has increased dramatically in recent years, so it was more a case of developing confidence in my ability with the design side. This summer, I found my Ice Cream Socks being admired at my local knitting group and realised it was actually a relatively small step to publish a pattern. I decided that the publishing experience would be a good experience to have for tech editing. The pattern proved more popular than I expected, which was a huge boost for my confidence, so I haven't looked back. Tech editing is still a big priority, but I can still find time for my own design work.
What influences your style?
I have a passion for lace, and love many traditionally based Shetland and Estonian patterns. I'm not however afraid of a modern twist and using patterns in unusual ways or modifying them to meet my needs. The direction a lace pattern is knitted in is particularly important to me and had a big influence on Ice Cream Socks and the Cascadia Shawl. The Ice Cream Socks developed from the Eiffel Tower Eyelet pattern: knitted top down it looks just like ice cream cones.
What do you enjoy most about the process? Least?
I don't think there is anything I particularly like least about the process of designing and publishing. I relish challenges, the variety of tasks involved and also admit to being very pedantic, wanting things to be just right. There are things I find hard: I'm not very good with a camera and photo manipulation software is a complete mystery to me. Luckily the rest of the family have skills that I lack and I am learning (even if slowly). I'm not the best model either and my husband jokes that the only photos of me not pulling a face are ones he's taken of me when asleep! But overall, I like getting the job done, celebrating my achievements and live for those Eureka! moments when everything comes together.
Any designs in the pipeline? What are you planning for 2015?
I've recently been working on a second lace shawl. It starts with a long lace border, with stitches picked up along the edge and knitted as for a bottom up triangular shaped shawl. The rate of decreases however means the shawl has a lovely curved top edge, and you only need to pin 2 sides when blocking. The pattern is in the last stages of being tech edited and is nearly finished. I just need some reasonable weather for the photography.
I've a few ideas at the moment which include cowls, socks, shawls and more lace. I'd like to produce some patterns for gradient yarn, and with all the cold weather we've had here in the UK, double knitting is tempting.
What made you decide to participate in the Gift-a-Long? What are you most looking forward to?
Taking part in the Gift-A-Long was an opportunity to reach out to more knitters. I'm looking forward to seeing a few finished projects from my patterns in the process.
Which of your patterns do you think would make the best holiday gift?
I think the Cascadia Shawl is a good choice as it is fairly straightforward once the pattern is set up: I have plans to make at least one for a present myself. For those in warmer climes, the Ice Cream Socks are a quick knit.
What are you planning to knit during the GAL?
I've already knit a Cheezombie's Sheepish, and bought patterns for Melissa Lemmons' Tangle of Chartreuse and the Otherwhere ebook from Nim Teasdale as I couldn't choose between Byzantia, Atlantia, Phoenicia and Avalonia. From patterns I already own, I'd like to use up leftovers to make Ann Kingstone's Wesley Bobs and more of my Mini Mitten and Mini Socks. There will also be a fair amount of plain sock knitting.
Thanks for talking with me, Karen, and good luck with the GAL!
Don't forget, the Gift-a-Long runs through December 31, but sale week ends tomorrow, so shop while you can! All eligible designs from participating designers are 25% off with coupon code giftalong2014!